Billy Foster revels in Matt Fitzpatrick’s US Open glory after winning his first major as a caddie
In the wake of the trophy presentation on the 18th green, as hands were shaken and congratulations were offered, Billy Foster stood alone in the middle of the fairway. He spoke to his family on his cell phone. He took it all in.
Minutes later, he confided to Sportsmail that he thought this cherished day might never come.
In Seve Ballesteros, Lee Westwood, Thomas Bjorn and Darren Clarke, Foster played a caddy for four of the greatest ball strikers in the history of the European game. He enjoyed glorious days of triumph at the Ryder Cup and partied with the best. But he hadn’t experienced the ultimate. He hadn’t won a major.
In the wake of Matt Fitzpatrick’s (left) trophy presentation, Billy Foster (right) stood alone in the middle of the fairway
But before the Englishman’s win at the US Open on Sunday, he hadn’t won a major before
Thank goodness it wasn’t for lack of effort or opportunity. He saw Bjorn throw out the Open in a bunker near Sandwich in 2003. “I thought about that every day for six months,” he said. “It broke my heart.”
He saw Westwood lose a classic Masters duel to Phil Mickelson. He saw the same man make three putts the 18th to miss a playoff for the 2009 Open.
“I’ve had about six or seven close calls and of course you build up doubts,” he said. “There was an awful lot of scar tissue.
“I’ve been doing this for forty years and I’ve only got two or three years to go. You go to your last few majors and you think, are you ever going to win one? Probably not.’
Foster has coached some of the best ball strikers like Lee Westwood (right) without experiencing the ultimate
When Westwood decided to go his own way in 2018, Fitzpatrick was quick on the phone with Foster. He thought he was just the experienced hand on the bag he needed. Fitzpatrick can be too hard on himself and he appreciated his fellow Yorkshireman’s dry sense of humor to lighten the load.
For his part, Foster was impressed by Fitzpatrick’s prodigious work ethic. But a big winner?
“I take my hat off to him for what he’s done over the past 18 months,” the 59-year-old said. “He was always a good, solid player, but I have to be honest, I didn’t think he would be this good. The improvement is incredible.
“That round he just played to win the US Open? That might be the best round I’ve seen and I’ve seen a few contenders.”
For his part, Foster was impressed by the prodigious work ethic of the new champion Fitzpatrick
The day was not without its panicky moments, mind, those sinking feelings of deja vu.
“We all know Matt is one of the best putters on tour, so when he started missing five-legged friends, I was like, ‘You little bastard!'” Foster said with a laugh. “He put my head in it. I thought he was trying to cheat me.
“Then we have a disagreement over the 18th hole, where he likes to hit a driver and I like him to hit a three-wood. So he hits a three piece and puts it in the bunker and I’m like, “Oh, no.” I can’t tell you how good that recovery shot was – thank goodness!’
As he spoke, Foster’s phone never stopped buzzing. The caddy friends he’d seen win majors were all desperate to contact him and welcome him to the club.
The day was not without its panicky moments, mind, those sinking feelings of deja vu
“I clearly missed my flight home last night and I don’t see myself catching my flight tomorrow afternoon either,” he said. “Fitz is off for a fortnight, so if it were up to me, the party would go on all week and next week, but we’d be going on vacation on Wednesday, so I’d better go home. †
With that, he broke into a signature grin. When asked if this was his best moment in his 40 years, he did not hesitate. “This makes up for all the sadness, it’s definitely my best moment,” he said.
“I had some great days with Seve and then Darren beat Tiger to win the WGC Match Play. Great days with Darren and Lee at the Ryder Cup. But this is the shining jewel, 100 percent.’
Asked if this was his best moment in his 40 years, there was no hesitation